catalyst: for change

catalystread2

I am thrilled to introduce my readers to catalyst wedding magazine, the wedding magazine “for wedding space disrupters,” and to share that my essay, “Making a Together Home,” appears in volume two of this beautiful publication!

I love, love, love the impetus behind catalyst. The editors recognized that there was a certain sameness to wedding magazines: the brides featured in the style shoots were invariably young, thin, white, and heterosexual, and most of the articles seemed to presume a lavish budget and slavish devotion to trend as well as tradition. As a bride who failed to fit into a number of these categories—starting with “young”—I often found myself somewhere between amused and horrified at the wedding industry vision of the “ideal bride.” The real-life brides I knew, and celebrations I’d attended, were quirky, authentic, and lovely. The “real wedding” sections of some bridal magazines do feature unconventional couples and approaches, but where were the gorgeous styled photo-shoots featuring older brides and plus-size brides? Or wedding planning advice from and for same-sex couples, or stories of ceremonies that blended faith and cultural traditions? Where were the perspectives of couples who embraced love and marriage but eschewed the conventions and pressures of the wedding-industrial complex?

Enter catalyst, which editor Liz Susong has described as “a wedding magazine that value[s] diverse representation, challenge[s] gender roles, and [is] tireless in advocating for equality.” From the perspective of applied feminism, catalyst explores what “it mean(s) to choose marriage and plan a wedding in this moment in time–in this political and historical context.”

Clearly, the magazine struck a chord: since its debut last year, it’s received national media attention and has been picked up for distribution by Barnes and Noble. Check out this list of the Barnes and Noble bookstores around the country where you can find catalyst. One of them, I’m glad to report, is right here in my home of Roanoke!

It was exciting to find the magazine on the shelf and especially fun to peruse my essay—a humorous chronicle of the challenges encountered when two middle-aged people with full lives and fuller homes blend households—at the local Barnes and Noble in Valley View Mall.

Bonus: Barnes and Noble is also currently stocking the spring issue of bridebook, which features a brief story about our big day, along with those of a number of other area celebrations, in its substantial real wedding stories section.

When I first visited the bridal magazine aisle looking for inspiration shortly after Steve and I got engaged, I felt overwhelmed and under-represented. It matters, seeing faces, bodies, lives that look like yours, reflecting back at you from the pages and pixels of the media. I’m so glad and grateful catalyst is leading the charge, and I’m honored to have my work be a part of the change.


If you see a copy of catalyst in your local Barnes and Noble, snap a pic with it and share it below, and/or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @catalystwedco @40firstimebride.

Wedding Crawl, Revisited

Last weekend, RoanokeWeddingNetwork.com held their annual Wedding Crawl. Each year five downtown venues, working with local wedding professionals, pull out all the stops to create mock weddings in each space, featuring ceremony and/or reception set-ups complete with food, flowers, photographers and photo booths, music, lighting, and models dressed as brides, grooms, and wedding party. It’s rare opportunity to see the spaces fully decked out and filled with people, as they would be during an actual celebration. And it always benefits a good cause: this year, the Roanoke Valley SPCA.

Hubby Steve and I decided to revisit the Crawl this year. We’d attended the 2015 Crawl as then-prospective bride and groom and had so much fun: dancing in the Corinthian Ballroom, tasting cake at the Taubman. I even caught the bouquet in a prize-giveaway toss at Center in the Square. Even though we already had most of our vendors sewn up by then, the Crawl gave us a chance to see examples of their fully realized visions, which made us look forward to their creations for our own wedding day all the more.

This time was not about looking forward, but looking back. At our first stop, Charter Hall, Steve and I picked up the most recent copy of bridebook, which features our wedding story. At the Taubman, our next venue, we lingered in the ethereal ceremony space (created by Lighting Ninja and Gloriosa) as an RSO harpist began to play. Steve smiled and took my hand: it was Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” the music I’d walked in to at our ceremony.

At the Patrick Henry Hotel Ballroom, our photographer Noah Magnifico had some of our photos in his display, and we admired the lush elegance of the bouquets and centerpieces crafted by Mark Frye of Creative Occasions, who’d done such a beautiful job with our flowers.

We saved the Center in Square Rooftop, where we got married, for last. It was hopping. Creative Entertainment had fashioned a Vegas theme, complete with game tables, a bride who doubled as a mobile hors d’oeuvres table, showgirls, and Elvis. We picked up information on honeymoon travel–we still hope to take a romantic trip somewhere tropical–from Rose of the Winds Travels, and said hello to my stylist, the awesome Brandy Moorman of Bliss Studio. After tasting brunch menu samplings from Chanticleer Catering and delicious mini-cupcakes from For the Lsove of Sweets, we headed outside.

The view from the roof, as always, was breathtaking. It was sunny, if a little windy, with the clear, bright blue skies I’d hoped for on our big day. We attempted a selfie in the same spot on the upper deck where Noah had taken our wedding pictures, but we couldn’t stop squinting—maybe those dramatic rolling clouds had been a blessing in disguise? We walked down the staircase to the spot where we’d said our “I do’s.” We held hands and shared a happy kiss. Operation Newlywed Nostalgia was complete.

We missed the last featured venue, the White Room at Blue 5, where we’d been told a real wedding would take place as part of the crawl. Sadly, that meant we also missed the opportunity to taste delectations from our favorite baker, Evie’s Wildflour Wedding Cakes. Coconut cupcakes with dark chocolate ganache… mmmmm.

The Wedding Crawl felt different this year, minus the anticipation of our own nuptials and all the excitement (and anxiety!) that comes with waiting and wondering. But we were more than satisfied. It was a lovely day filled with beautiful sights and bountiful treats, and we’d already celebrated the real wedding that mattered most: ours.

My amazing vendors!

With two of our wonderful vendors, Noah Magnifico and Mark Frye, and our -bridebook- feature!

Nothing else, a lack of chocolate ganache notwithstanding, will ever compare.

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Our First Fight

“April is the cruellest month,” wrote T.S. Eliot, whose words have been echoing in my head of late, with the recent passage of Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” and the ensuing debate about whether wedding professionals should have the right to claim a religious exemption when it comes to baking cakes or selling dresses to same-sex couples. The brouhaha engendered by RFRA alongside end-of-semester stresses have put me in mind of mine and Steve’s first fight.

♥ ♥ ♥

We don’t fight much, and “fight” is relative—our fights are probably more accurately described as “intense disagreements” or maybe, once or twice, “arguments.” We rarely argue about elements of our relationship, but sometimes we disagree about ideas or politics or some happening in the world. The first time it happened was back in July 2014, when the Supreme Court issued the Hobby Lobby decision.

I still remember sitting on my sofa, talking to Steve on the phone, expressing my frustration with the decision. I’d posted a question on Facebook: “Hobby Lobby purports to believe it is wrong for the government to ‘impose’ their ‘moral standards’ on the company at cost to the company. How then do they justify imposing their moral standards on their employees, at additional cost to the employees? (Who, by the way, are likely LESS financially able to bear the burden.) So it’s okay to impose a set of beliefs and morés on others, so long as they’re YOUR beliefs and morés?”

I was dismayed when Steve, though he didn’t exactly side with the Supreme Court’s decision, expressed empathy with their reasoning. He was (not unjustifiably, in a general sense) concerned about the over-reach of government. While he favored some regulation, he felt, on principle, there was inherent danger in the government dictating the policies of a privately held company, especially if they had moral objections to the mandate. If an employee didn’t like the specifics of a company’s insurance plan, he argued, she or he didn’t have to keep working there. Continue reading

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Wedding Crawl 2015

When Steve told one of our friends we were spending Sunday afternoon at a Wedding Crawl, she replied that it sounded like what you did to get to the ceremony after you had a little too much fun at the rehearsal dinner the night before. There was plenty of fun at this year’s Crawl, and the temptations were many (red velvet cake pops!), but the biggest danger of overindulgence was in great wedding ideas.

This was the third year for the now annual Wedding Crawl, a festive event put on by teams of local wedding professionals in the Roanoke Wedding Network. Each team collaborates to create a mock wedding and reception at one of five prime downtown wedding locations. The venues featured were the Corinthian Ballroom, the Patrick Henry Hotel, Charter Hall in the Market Building, the Taubman Museum of Art, and (our personal favorite) the Center in the Square Rooftop. Each “wedding” showcased a ceremony and reception set-up complete with decorations, flowers, a planner, a caterer, a photographer, a photo booth, a DJ, a bakery and cake, and a bride, along with other vendors such as officiants, hair and makeup salons, lighting designers, and videographers. I was really impressed at the commitment and creativity of all of the teams, who clearly put in a lot of time and energy to make the event a success.

Photo credit William Mahone Photography

Photo, William Mahone Photography

After signing in at the Roanoke City Market, where I was given a “bride-to-be” sash and pinned a “fiancé” boutonniere on Steve, we were directed to start at the Corinthian Ballroom, an elegant space with great natural light. It was there we sampled the aforementioned cake pops, courtesy of Delish! Sweets and Treats, and goofed around in SwellBooth‘s vintage-look photo booth. Upstairs we indulged in Chanticleer Catering‘s yummy victuals, and I convinced Steve to do the Wobble, which William Mahone Photography captured on camera. (I’m behind the bride.)

Have I ever mentioned just what an incredibly good sport Steve is? Continue reading

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Here Comes the Bridal Show

Brideness earns you entrée into a strange world you never had access to before and (god, spouse, and lawyers willing) never will need access to again. Witness: the bridal show.

Technically, I suppose, anyone could go to a bridal show. For the disinterested, it would be a strange and uneasy universe. When I was younger I considered crashing just to see what magic lay behind the lacy white curtains. But I suspected the free cupcakes wouldn’t compensate for the sting of being surrounded by members of a club I wanted to belong to but hadn’t been asked to join.

Now I’ve got my credentials and the club is open. But I’ll be darned if they still don’t look at me funny when I come knocking on the door.

Bride’s Night: Boa Contradicter

Back in the fall, I invited my girlfriend Melissa to join me at Bride’s Night, a biannual event put on by Caroline LaRocca Event Design that travels to different wedding venues around town. It’s marketed as a girl’s night out, with a fashion show, stylists on hand doing quick up-dos, an on-site mobile spray-tanning booth. I’d modeled for a previous incarnation, but I’d never attended as a bride.

Melissa and I met at the venue, the beautiful Corinthian Ballroom. At the door, Melissa saw someone she knew and stopped to say hello, so I went ahead to the check-in table.

The greeter’s eyes slid across my face then quickly flicked to either side of me, checking for companions. She hesitated and said, “You’re not…are you…a bride?” Continue reading

Elves on Shelves and Other “Traditions”–or, Why I Can’t Stand Unity Sand

It’s that time of year again: Christmas carols ring through every shop, holiday cards outnumber the bills in my mailbox, and the Hershey’s kisses “handbells” make me giggle every time the last little bell says “Shwew.” A seasonal shift is evident on social media, too, as friends share recipes for crazy-good sounding cookies and post pictures of children sitting on Santa’s lap and little elves sitting on the toilet pooping peppermint candies.

Ah, the “Elf on the Shelf,” icon of the 21st century Christmas. According to Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell’s 2005 children’s book, the diminutive Elf is a scout for St. Nick who hides in various places around the house to watch and report on who’s naughty or nice. The toy, understandably I think, garners equal amounts devotion and derision. For those who have children and can share in their daily delight at discovering what that crazy Elf is up to now, it’s a funny and charming pastime. As a long-time single woman whose home was once broken into by the neighborhood voyeur, I find the idea of an odd little man popping in and out of my house and spying on me…icky. Sinister, even. Besides, don’t we have the NSA for that?

Still, just because their cute is my creepy, I don’t begrudge my friends their joy in elfin antics. And I hope none will begrudge me my confession that the same celebratory ritual that brings others great happiness makes me shiver in revulsion.

I can’t stand unity sand. Continue reading

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Wedding Planning 101: Lessons from Kim and Kanye

I don’t usually follow celebrity gossip, but whenever I visit my hairstylist or the doctor’s office, I enjoy flipping through a cheesy magazine or two. After all, it would be un-American of me not to maintain at least a basic knowledge of the intimate details of vast numbers of people I’ll never meet and rarely respect. While getting my hair done not long ago, I was perusing my stylist’s back-stash of celebrity rags and saw a magazine headline from fall 2013, something along the lines of “Kim leaves wedding planning to Kanye.” Along with most of the rest of the internet, I’ve seen a bit more of Kim Kardashian lately than I ever really needed or wanted to, though truth be told, I only know who she or any of the Kardashians is because their antics get so much press coverage (if coverage is the right word…). Sans cable or satellite, I don’t get E! and have never seen the family’s reality show. In fact, I’m proud to report I had to look up which network even carries it; as further proof of our compatibility, Steve didn’t know either!

The part of the headline that caught my eye was not “Kim” nor “Kanye” (the musician who railed at Taylor Swift for winning a Grammy he thought someone else deserved, yes?). The words I latched onto were, no surprise, “wedding planning.” Steve and I are, relatively speaking, still in the early stages of corralling the vast compendium of activities that innocent-sounding phrase describes, but I continue to feel amazed and overwhelmed at the seemingly infinite reach of this thing called the “wedding industry.”

So, when I read the headline, I had three thoughts, in this order: (1) Wow, there are times when I wish I could hand it all off to Steve. (2) I could never hand it all off to Steve—I’ve waited years to plan my wedding! And finally, (3): Bullshit. Kanye’s idea of wedding planning probably means making a list of extravagant ideas, picking up a phone to hire a wedding planner, and then telling his staff to get busy. Methinks–as I have texted back and forth with my mom about fabric choices, spent hours perusing photographers’ websites, and sent yet another email to our chosen venue, asking, again, when can we, please, sign a contract?—Mr. West’s dreaming up ever more grandiose ideas with nary a worry of how to finance any of them does not count as “planning.”

Continue reading